Why Are Brazil Nuts so Expensive?

A lady holding bills to pay for expensive Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts are more expensive than other nuts, especially in the last few years. Have you ever wondered what makes them so special?

There are several good reasons for the high prices of Brazil nuts. We’re talking about a rare tree that only grows in one place and is hard to harvest. Apart from that, it only grows in the wild, and it’s being affected by climate change.

Let’s explore the several reasons why Brazil nuts are more expensive than other nuts:

Brazil Nuts Are Not that Common

The fact that all Brazil nuts come from the Amazon makes this nut a little more exotic than others. They are not planted or found elsewhere, meaning the production cannot be increased, which naturally results in a higher price.

It’s a Wild Species

Brazil nuts are entirely wild, with no human interference during their lifecycle. That means there is no human control over their growth and natural production. The crops may be great one year, while the following year, they may be poor. This fact makes Brazil nuts even more exclusive and expensive.

Deforestation

Unfortunately, the Brazil nut industry is one of the main victims of deforestation in the Amazon. Because of this, the area available for Brazil nut trees is getting smaller, which means less supply and, you guessed it, higher prices.

The Trees Are Delicate and Take a Long Time to Mature

A further reason for their high price is the fact that Brazil nut trees only grow in particular conditions of the Amazon. And even if all the requirements for its successful growth are met, it takes a long time until they mature. The trees may take up to 20 years to produce the first seeds (what we call Brazil nuts).

That makes them even more exotic.

It’s Labor Intense and Dangerous for the Workers

The trees are very tall, around 160 feet tall, with heavy fruits falling from them. That causes accidents that can even lead to death. That kind of work is usually more expensive because of the risks involved.

Not to mention that the trees are spread through the enormous Amazon forest. Going from tree to tree requires walking great distances. For more info on how this whole process works, check our post about harvesting Brazil nuts.

Indigenous Communities Have to Be Paid Fairly

There’s another thing I have to mention about the workers that collect Brazil nuts. There are families and even entire communities of indigenous people depending on this industry. And for them to keep doing the work, they have to sell this exotic nut at a price that allows them to make a living.

In fact, years ago, most families left this business because it wasn’t lucrative. The selling price used to be around 0.06$ per kilo, and communities were not incentivized to build their livelihoods around this industry. Therefore, the entire industry collapsed.

With the price increase, Brazil nut collectors are returning to the business. Now, workers can sell it at around $1.60 per kilo, which is more than 2000% compared to a few years ago.

Brazil Nuts Need a Costly Trip Until They Get to Your Supermarket

Growing in such a remote place means that Brazil nuts must go through many steps. Once they are collected, they are sold to a cooperative that is going to process and package them. Then they are shipped and exported to the rest of the world, bought by particular brands, and distributed to shops and supermarkets.

As you can see, they are sold from one company to another until they reach the final consumer. Each of those steps increases the price. And the transport involved is also expensive; not like your typical nut that is probably produced in your region.

Increased Demand Due to Healthy Trends

The number of Brazil nut consumers increased significantly in the last few years. Thanks to health websites, people are more aware of the benefits of a healthy diet. And Brazil nuts are nutrient rich, especially when it comes to selenium. That made Brazil nuts very popular, and it’s now considered a superfood.

When the demand for an exotic and healthy product increases exponentially in developed countries, there is no way around it; prices will go up.

Climate Change

2017 was a very negative year for the Brazil nut industry. The El Niño brought climate changes that impacted the crops, and resulted in even higher prices. Unfortunately, it didn’t affect the crops in that year only; it continues to cause bad harvests, compared to those before 2017.

If you want to know the details, we have an entire blog post explaining how the El Niño caused a shortage of Brazil nuts.

What’s the Current Price of Brazil Nuts?

The cost of Brazil nuts depends mainly on the brand, but we are seeing prices around $13 to $18 per pound (0.45 kg) in the US. Sometimes they are a bit cheaper, but this is the average price.

Some companies offer lower prices by selling in bulk. For example, we saw a 5 pound (2.26 kg) package selling for $55, which makes $11 per pound.

Consequences of Brazil Nut’s Price Increase

Besides paying more for your Brazil nuts, there are a few other negative consequences of this price increase.

Brands are removing Brazil nuts from mixed nut packages

Even though Brazil nuts are not real nuts, they are often included in mixed nuts; until recently. The high prices are forcing some brands to exclude Brazil nuts from their packages. They do it to save money and also offer a cheaper product.

Availability in supermarkets and health shops

Another consequence of the high prices is that some supermarkets and health shops are no longer selling them.

In some online shops, we’re noticing an increase in notices like “currently unavailable” or “out of stock”.

We still didn’t get to an alarming level because they are still available in many places, but it’s a trend that may grow, making Brazil nuts harder to find.

Conclusion

The next time you’re tempted to buy those “overpriced” Brazil nuts from the health food store, remember all the factors that have made them so expensive. 

It’s not just because they’re a “superfood”; there are many complex reasons why these nuts cost what they do.

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